I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket, checked the time, and called Angus. “We’ll be ready in ten,” I told him when he answered.
“I’ll bring the car around.”
Ending the call, I glanced at Deanna, impatient for her to get to the point.
“How’s Eva?” she asked.
“She’ll be here in a few moments. You can ask her yourself.”
“Oh.” She looked up at me, one eye hidden behind the fall of her hair. “I should probably be gone before she gets here. I think our . . . history makes her uncomfortable.”
“She knows how I was,” I said evenly, “and she knows I’m not that way now.”
Deanna nodded. “Of course she does, and of course you’re not, but no woman likes when her man’s past gets rubbed in her face.”
“Then you’ll have to make sure you don’t do that.”
She withdrew a thin folder from her bag. Standing, she walked toward me. “I wouldn’t. I accepted your apology and appreciate it.”
“It’s Corinne Giroux you might want to worry about.”
What patience I’d had disappeared. “Corinne is her husband’s concern, not mine.”
Deanna held the folder out to me. I took it and opened it, finding a press release inside.
As I read, my grip tightened until I crumpled the edges.
“She’s sold a tell-all book about your relationship,” she said redundantly. “The release officially hits the wire Monday morning at nine.”
“OTHER COUPLES MEET, hit things off, their friends nitpick a little but are mostly supportive, and they coast for a while in that couple stage just enjoying each other.” I sighed and glanced at Gideon, who sat beside me on the couch. “We, on the other hand, can’t seem to catch a break.”
“What kind of breaks are you referring to?” Dr. Petersen asked, eyeing us with fond interest.
That fondness gave me hope. As soon as Gideon and I had arrived, I’d noticed the change in the dynamic between him and Dr. Petersen. There was something looser between them, a new ease. Less wariness.
“The only people who really want us to be together are my mother—who thinks us loving each other is a bonus to his billions—and his stepfather and sister.”
“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of your mother,” Dr. Petersen said, sitting back and holding my gaze. “She wants you to be happy.”
“Yeah, well, a lot of being happy for my mom is being financially secure, which I just don’t understand. It’s not like she’s ever struggled for money, so why is she so afraid of not having any? Anywayyyy . . .” I shrugged. “I’m just irritated with everyone right now. Gideon and I get along great when it’s just the two of us. I mean we fight sometimes, but we always get through it. And I feel like we’re always stronger once we do.”
“What do you fight about?”
I glanced at Gideon again. He sat beside me totally at ease, looking gorgeous and successful in his beautifully tailored suit. It was on my to-do list to go with him the next time he updated his wardrobe. I wanted to watch them measure that stunning body of his, see them select the materials and style.
I found him sexy as sin in jeans and a T-shirt, and mind-blowing in a tuxedo. But I’d always have a special fondness for the three-piece suits he favored. They reminded me of how he’d been when I first met him, so beautiful and seemingly unattainable, a man I’d wanted so desperately that the need overrode even my sense of self-preservation.
I looked back at Dr. Petersen. “We still argue about the things he doesn’t tell me. And we argue when he tries to shut me out.”
He turned his gaze to Gideon. “Do you feel the need to maintain a certain distance from Eva?”
My husband’s mouth curved wryly. “There is no distance between us, Doctor. She wants me to dump everything on her that’s an irritant to me and I won’t do that. Ever. It’s bad enough if one of us has to bother with it.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “I think that’s crap. Part of a relationship is sharing the load with someone else. Maybe sometimes I can’t do anything about the problem, but I can be a sounding board. I think you don’t tell me things just because you’d rather shove them into a corner where you can ignore them.”
“People process information in different ways, Eva.”
I wasn’t buying Gideon’s dismissive reply. “You’re not processing, you’re ignoring. And I’m never going to be okay with you pushing me away when you’re hurting.”
“How does he push you away?” Dr. Petersen asked.
I looked at him. “Gideon . . . separates himself. He goes somewhere else where he can be alone. He won’t let me help him.”
“‘Goes somewhere else’ how? Do you emotionally withdraw, Gideon? Or physically?”
“Both,” I said. “He shuts down emotionally and goes away physically.”
Gideon reached over and took my hand in his. “I can’t shut down with you. That’s the problem.”
“That’s not a problem!”
I shook my head. “He doesn’t need space,” I said to Dr. Petersen, “he needs me, but he cuts me off because he’s afraid he’ll hurt me if he doesn’t.”
“How would you hurt her, Gideon?”
“It’s . . .” He exhaled harshly. “Eva has triggers. I keep them in mind, all the time. I’m careful. But sometimes, when I’m not thinking clearly, it’s possible I could cross the line.”
Dr. Petersen studied us. “What lines are you worried about crossing?”
Gideon’s grip tightened on my hand, the only outward sign he gave of any uneasiness. “There are times when I need her too much. I can be rough . . . demanding. Sometimes, I don’t have the control I need.”
“You’re talking about your sexual relationship?” He returned Gideon’s nod. “We’ve touched on that briefly before. You said you have sex multiple times a day, every day. Is that still the case?”
I felt my face heat.
Gideon’s thumb stroked over the back of my hand. “Yes.”
Dr. Petersen set his tablet aside. “You’re right to be concerned. Gideon, you may be using sex to keep Eva at an emotional distance. When you’re making love, she’s not talking, you’re not answering. There’s a point when you’re not even thinking, your body is in charge and your brain is just along for the endorphin ride. Conversely, sexual abuse survivors like Eva often use sex as a way to establish an emotional connection. Can you see the problem there? You may be trying to achieve distance through sex, while Eva is trying to get closer.”
“I’ve already told you there’s no distance.” Gideon leaned forward, pulling my hand into his lap. “Not with Eva.”
“So tell me, when you’re struggling emotionally and you initiate sex with Eva, what is it you’re looking for?”
I twisted a little to look at Gideon, totally invested in his answer. I’d never questioned why he needed to be inside me, only how. For me, it was as simple as him needing and me giving.
His gaze met mine. The shield over his eyes, that mask of his, slipped away. I saw the longing there, the love.
“The connection,” he answered. “There’s this moment. She opens and I . . . I open, and we’re there. Together. I need that.”
“You need it rough?”
Gideon looked at him. “Sometimes. There are times when she holds back. But I can get her there. She wants me to get her there, needs it like I do. I have to push. Carefully. With control. When I don’t have the control, I need to back off.”
“How do you push?” Dr. Petersen asked quietly.
“I have my ways.”
Dr. Petersen turned his attention to me. “Has Gideon ever gone too far?”
I shook my head.
“Do you ever worry that he might?”
His gaze was soft and capped with a frown. “You should, Eva. You both should.”
I was stirring vegetables and cubed chicken into a curry mix on the stove when I heard the front door opening. Curious, I waited to see who came into view, hoping Cary had come home alone.
“Smells good,” he said, walking up to the breakfast bar to watch me. He looked cool and casual in an oversized white V-neck T-shirt and khaki shorts. Sunglasses hung off his collar and wide brown leather cuffs hugged each forearm, hiding the threadlike cuts I’d spotted the night before.
“Got enough for me?” he asked.
He smiled his cocky smile, but I saw the tightness around his mouth. “Yep.”
“Then I’ve got enough, if you pour the wine.”
“You got yourself a deal.”
Joining me in the kitchen, he looked over my shoulder and into the pot. “White or red?”
“White it is, then. Where’s Cross?”
I watched him head to the wine fridge. “With his trainer, working out. How was your day?”
He shrugged. “Same shit as always.”
“Cary.” I lowered the heat and turned to him. “Just a few weeks ago, you were so happy to be here in New York and getting jobs. Now . . . you’re so unhappy.”
Pulling a bottle out, he shrugged again. “That’s what I get for f**king around.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been here for you.”
He glanced at me as he dug out the bottle opener. “But . . . ?”
I shook my head. “No buts. I’m sorry. I will say that you’ve had company most nights I’m home, so I figured that’s why we weren’t talking as much, but that doesn’t excuse me from not reaching out when I know you’re going through a difficult time.”
Cary sighed, his head bowing. “It wasn’t fair to dump everything on you last night. I know Cross has got his own shit to wade through and you’re dealing with that.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not here for you.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “Anytime you need me, just let me know and I’ll be there.”
Turning abruptly, he caught me up in a powerful hug, squeezing the air out of me. Sympathy did the rest of the work, squeezing my heart.
I hugged him in return, one hand stroking the back of his head. His dark brown hair was as soft as silk, his shoulders as hard as granite. I guessed they’d have to be to hold up the weight of the stress he was carrying. Guilt made me hold him even tighter.
“God,” he muttered. “I’ve f**ked this all up to hell and back.”
“What’s going on?”
He set me down, then turned back to the bottle to open it. “I don’t know if it’s hormones or what, but Tat is a raging f**king bitch right now. Nothing is good enough. Nothing makes her happy, especially being pregnant. What shot has the poor kid got with me as a father and a self-centered diva who hates him as his mother?”
“Maybe it’s a girl,” I said, handing over the wineglasses I’d pulled out of the cupboard.
“Jesus. Don’t say that. I’m panicked enough as it is.” He poured two hefty glasses, slid one over to me, and drank deep from his own. “And I feel like an ass**le talking about the mother of my baby that way, but it’s the truth. God help us, it’s the damned truth.”
“I’m sure it’s just the hormones. It’ll all settle in, and then she’ll get that glow and be happy.” I took a sip, hoping like hell everything I was saying would come true. “Have you told Trey yet?”